Greenebaum Cancer Center Recognizes Compassion, Humility in Two Staff Members

Two University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center staff members were recently honored with 2015 Greenebaum Compassion Awards.  Medical assistant Heather Thomas and clinical nurse Thi Nguyen, RN, were nominated by their coworkers for exemplifying the qualities of compassion and humanitarianism while providing care for their patients.

Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum, for whom the Cancer Center is named, established the special award in 2007 to recognize staff members who go well beyond their normal duties and demonstrate extraordinary compassion, hope and dignity.

Thomas, a medical assistant at the Stoler Outpatient Lymphoma clinic, received not just one nomination, but four. Sharon Otto, RN, Seung Tae Lee, MD, Jennifer Cash, RN, and Arnob Banerjee, MD, PhD, all described Thomas as willing to go the extra mile for her patients, no matter the circumstances. She has been known to call patients to see how they are feeling or even simply to wish them a Happy Birthday.

“[Thomas] anticipates their needs and really makes them feel understood and cared for,” Cash says. “She will stop whatever she is doing if a patient stops her to see if she can help them. She is a wonderful team player, and I have never heard her say ‘no’ to anyone.”

Otto describes Thomas as the “epitome of calmness” and adds “our patients, our staff and the physicians all feel safe and comforted when Heather is involved.”

Nguyen works in the Greenebaum Cancer Center’s aphaeresis lab , providing treatments such as stem cell collection, photophoresis and leukodepletion. Nominated by Kathy Holden, RN, Nguyen inspires her coworkers to strive for the outstanding level of commitment, empathy and passion she displays on a daily basis. Holden says Nguyen is always looking for ways to make her patients’ procedures more effective and less taxing. Her passion for healing goes beyond her written job description.

“During conversations about the sometimes long hours and overtime, Thi has expressed to me: ‘I don’t care about that. I think about the patient and how they need that to survive, so I will do it. I don’t even care if I get paid,’” Holden says.

Nguyen’s concern for the patient’s welfare also doesn’t go unnoticed by those she helps treat. Holden says she has seen patients with tears in their eyes, thanking Nguyen for “saving their lives.”  Nguyen also becomes “overwhelmed with heartbreak” when a client has complications, and “noticeably rejoices with them for reaching milestones for recovery.”

Greenebaum Cancer Center staff members nominate their own colleagues for the annual Compassion Awards, are nominated by and a committee representing various Cancer Center departments selects the winners. As award recipients, Nguyen and Thomas each received a $2,500 cash award, and had their names added to the Compassion Award display in the Stoler Pavilion waiting area.

Paper Cranes Bring Hope to Children Fighting Cancer

Last week, as part of a global initiative to bring hope to children fighting the battle against cancer, Tina Allen of the Liddle Kidz Foundation presented 2,000 folded origami paper cranes from Japanese children fighting cancer to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC)’s Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Team and their patients.

In Japan, cranes symbolize hope, love, honor and peace. Tradition also says that if someone receives 1,000 cranes, they will be granted their wish, or eternal luck.

In return, staff from the Center for Integrative Medicine’s Inpatient Integrative Care Team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine created “links of love” with 4,000 hand-decorated paper strips to send back to Japan, with the intention of sending love and support around the world in conjunction with National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which is September.

Crane Ceremony 2Dr. Teresa York, Division Head of the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Unit, and 15-year-old patient Madison Friz – whose cancer is now in remission – accepted thecranes from Allen on behalf of UMMC patients and their families.

“I am very honored and humbled by this gift of hope as we continue the fight against pediatric cancer,” said York, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“This gift means hope,” added Friz. “When you have cancer, that’s all you have. You don’t know what’s going to happen the next day, so you have to believe everything is going to turn out fine.”

Crane Ceremony 1

Double Divas Visit UMMC Breast Center

The Breast Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) welcomed two very special guests on Wednesday, September 16: Lifetime TV’s “Double Divas,” Molly Hopkins and Cynthia Decker of LiviRae Lingerie, offered their unique custom bra fittings to the women of Maryland. The event was sponsored by the Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, with a portion of proceeds donated to the Breast Center. Each woman in attendance received a bra fitting and LiviRae Lingerie merchandise.

Big-name stores simply don’t carry the array of sizes most women need, which makes bra shopping difficult and the final purchase disappointing. Even with tape-measured fittings, many stores sell women incorrect sizes. LiviaRae Lingerie is working hard to change the way women shop for bras. With a visual fitting, backed by years of product knowledge and experience, customers are sent away with a great-fitting bra and often a new perspective on undergarments.

To give back, Molly and Cynthia offered free bra fittings to several breast cancer fighters and survivors. As they waited for their turns, they shared their breast cancer stories. Linda Adamson, a 49-year-old woman living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, was in good spirits and rocking some seriously stylish heels. She credits her optimism to her family, who is her biggest support system.

Linda PosingWomen like Linda who live in the Baltimore area have another support system too: The Baltimore City Cancer Program (BCCP), a community-based initiative of the UM Greenebaum Cancer Center that seeks to reduce the city’s rates of cancer morbidity and develop a framework for delivering cancer care to uninsured and underinsured populations. BCCP also provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings. Linda is a beneficiary of BCCP’s services. Her treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, was completely covered.

Linda’s turn finally came, and Molly and Cynthia set her up in the dressing room with a few options to try on. When she emerged, Linda triumphantly threw her old bra into the trash can. “This bra fits like a dream—and it‘s cute too! I finally feel like myself again,” she raved.

Each woman left confident, comfortable and with a smile on her face. We’ll consider this visit from the Double Divas a much-needed mid-week lift.

Group Shot Double Divas

Governor Larry Hogan Visits the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

“Heading to my fifth round of five-day, 24-hour chemo this morning at the University of Maryland Medical System in Baltimore. As always thank you to everyone for your prayers and support during this journey!

Before my treatment I took some time to visit the brand-new, world-class Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UMMS which officially opened on Tuesday. There I met families with children being treated at the NICU and listened to the stories of Baby Rebecca, Baby Ilyanna, and Baby Javion who are on the road to recovery following bouts with a range of health challenges such as infections, cardiac abnormalities, and abdominal complications. They are carefully cared for, with a balance of compassion and unparalleled clinical excellence!

The work these incredible doctors and nurses at the NICU do is amazing and they are saving lives every day! Please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers!”

-Governor Larry Hogan

Gov. Hogan NICU 1Gov. Hogan NICU 2Gov. Hogan NICU 3Gov. Hogan NICU 5Gov. Hogan NICU 6

 

Safe Summer Skin

By: Adrian Rabin, Editorial Intern

For many, the beginning of summer means spending lots of time outdoors. It’s tempting to spend full days outside enjoying the sunshine, but long hours spent in the sun can damage your skin, especially without proper protection.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer throughout their lifetime, and the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that around 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 60% of melanoma skin cancers are directly linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.

Although invisible to the naked eye, the sun’s UV rays can permeate deep into the layers of the skin, damaging the DNA housed inside skin cells. Damaged cells in the deepest layers of the skin can lead to melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer with the highest tendency to spread. Non-melanoma cancers arise from damage to cells closer to the skin’s surface.

A single sunburn can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer. After five sunburns, the risk of developing melanoma doubles.

Fortunately, the most significant way to reduce this risk is within our control. Scientific research provides powerful evidence that daily sunscreen use can greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Program at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center offers these tips as guidelines for summer skin safety:

Stay out of the sun. The most dangerous hours of the day are between 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, so try to plan outdoor activities for the early morning or later afternoon. Cover yourself with sun-protective clothing and sunglasses, and seek shade whenever possible.

Use sunscreens labeled as broad spectrum and high SPF. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays permeate deep into the skin, while UVB rays cause the skin to redden and burn. The Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, is the direct measure of how effective a sunscreen is against the sun’s UV rays. Choose a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher for optimal protection.

Apply sunscreen thoroughly and frequently. During continued exposure to the sun, reapply sunscreen to exposed skin every two hours, and always after swimming or sweating.

Think about the everyday. Don’t skip the sunscreen even if the forecast is partly cloudy–on cloudy days, over 40% of UV rays can still reach earth. For everyday activities, adults and children over 6 months should wear moisturizers or lotions with SPF 15 or higher, which can prevent skin damage from moderate sun exposure.

Never use UV tanning beds. The rays emitted by these machines can be over 12 times stronger than the sun’s natural rays.

Examine your skin every month for abnormalities. Spots or sores that are asymmetrical, growing, or do not go away within two weeks should all be examined by a physician

No sunscreen can block all UV rays, but with proper application and maintenance, you can significantly reduce your risk of skin cancer while enjoying the activities you love and keeping your skin healthy.

For more information, visit the Skin Cancer Program at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Compassion and Healing

The Greenebaum Compassion Award goes this winter to Lisa Mayo, a discharge coordinator, and Michelle “Shelle” Besche, BSN, OCN, CCRP, a research nurse coordinator. Read about why they were chosen from among the staff of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center — where everyone is known for compassionate care.

Greenebaum Cancer Center Patients and Staff Celebrate Together

Each year, the staff of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center coordinates “A Cancer Center Christmas,” a buffet dinner and party for patients and families who must celebrate Christmas in the hospital.

 A deep bond develops among the cancer center “family,” as patients and the relatives and friends who support them make frequent trips for care during this crucial period in their lives. On the day after this year’s Christmas celebration, Peggy Torr, BSN, RN, OCN, a nurse who helped coordinate this year’s celebration, sent staff an email that perfectly illustrates the warm and loving atmosphere created by these nurses, patient care technicians, unit secretaries, physicians and other staff. 

Torr noted that much credit should go to her colleague, Anita Meddin, RN, who over the years helped organize the annual celebration and make it better each time. 

 

 

Therapeutic Music Program Helps Cancer Patients

By Sharon Boston

Media Relations Manager

Music and sound, such as a happy song on the radio or the frightening score of a scary movie, have the ability to change our moods. Many people have a physical and emotional connection to sound, and scientific research has shown that music can be beneficial in healing.

Now, through a grant from the Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research, the University of Maryland Medical Center is offering live therapeutic music to patients receiving treatment at the Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Therapeutic musician Terri Fevang plays keyboard pieces tailored to each patient’s mood or emotions, so each visit is different. Some patients may be anxious while awaiting test results, while others may be tired after receiving chemotherapy or radiation.

“The music is peaceful and calming, and takes my mind off my pain and worries,” says Jessica Montgomery, a 29-year-old leukemia patient. “When Terri comes in, we turn the TV off and just listen to her play. My dad is usually there too, and he often falls asleep because it’s so relaxing.”

The live therapeutic music program is part of the Medical Center’s Integrative Care team, which offers treatments such as acupressure, guided imagery and yoga breathing to patients throughout the hospital, including the Shock Trauma Center.  The goal is to help patients relax, optimizing health and healing.

Terri playingThe Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation grant also allows researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine to study the potential benefits of live therapeutic music for these cancer patients. The grant will fund a pilot study to see if the therapy can affect patients’ anxiety, mood and quality of life as well as some physical indicators such as pulse oximetry, which measures the pulse and oxygen in the blood.

“We have received a great deal of positive feedback from patients about the music program. Now we want to see if the data supports this encouraging anecdotal evidence,” explains Chris D’Adamo, PhD, director of research at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, which is part of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

If the pilot program with 30 patients is successful, researchers hope to launch a larger study on the benefits of therapeutic music.

 Click here to see a WBAL-TV story about the live therapeutic music story.

 

Recovering Cancer Patient Takes Control of Health and Weight

Verna Prehn, before and after

My Story of Getting Healthy

By Verna Prehn

Three years ago I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time of my diagnosis, I was a very large woman (weighing more than 300 lbs) with a very high “at-rest” heart rate and (we would find out later) severely malnourished.

I went through tough but successful treatment, including two surgeries, chemotherapy, artificial feedings with a nasogastric tube, and blood transfusions, under the care of Dr. Sarah Temkin at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Chemo had many side effects, including bone pain, hair loss and weight loss (97 pounds), but it has successfully freed me from cancer for now, and Dr. Temkin keeps a close watch on my health, vigilant for a recurrence that would require additional treatment. Dr. Temkin told me that keeping the weight off that I had lost with chemotherapy treatments would be healthy for me and increase my survivorship.

After treatment was complete, I began to put on weight, but Dr. Temkin said not to worry too much because everyone puts on a bit of weight after they have completed treatment. But my little bit of weight became a lot more weight until I had put on all 97 pounds I had lost.

I went to Dr. Tais Baig in UM Family Medicine as my primary care physician to have her regulate medication for my high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. She ran tests and found that my blood glucose was high enough to suspect diabetes. Dr. Baig talked with me for a while, getting to know me and asked how she could best help me with my health.

I told her that I wanted to get the weight off because I wanted to increase my survivorship and I knew that being so heavy is a threat to my health. I told her that I didn’t know how to do it. I don’t know what good nutrition is, what’s good or bad to eat, and how to come up with a plan to lose weight. She told me about the University of Maryland Medical Weight Management Program through the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Baig helped me through getting an appointment to begin.

I met Dr. Verlyn Warrington at my first appointment. She explained the program, gave me lots of information and set me up for the group meetings with a licensed clinical social worker and behavior therapist. I was taking medication for high blood pressure and rapid heart rate, thyroid medication for an under active thyroid, an inhaler for asthma, and Dr. Warrington wanted to put me on medication for diabetes.

My first meeting with the support and accountability group was overwhelming. We talked about protein, protein, protein. We talked about portion size. We talked about eating several times a day and not skipping meals. Harriet told us that if we followed the plan we would lose 10 percent of our body weight in three months. It took me about a week-and-a-half before I gave the plan a try because I was afraid and overwhelmed. In three months, I did indeed lose 10 percent of my body weight. In fact, I lost 35 pounds that first three months.

Additionally, Dr. Warrington explained that I needed to increase my activity level. I had some restrictions on what I could do because of my knees and asthma. I began walking. I started walking around the perimeter of my neighborhood, which measures out to just over a mile. At first, I couldn’t walk and talk at the same time and I had to stop frequently to rest and catch my breath. As I have lost more weight and have increased my cardiovascular endurance, I have started exercising to on-line walking videos

I have learned so much from Harriet, Dr. Warrington, Dr. Vivienne Rose and the people in our support and accountability group. I know how to think and make good choices about eating. HALT is a good motto to follow because my emotions drive my eating habits. So I think: HALT – am I HUNGRY? Or am I ANGRY? or am I LONELY? or am I TIRED? Actually, I add an “S” to it (HALTS) – am I STRESSED?

I read the labels on food and check them for calories, fat and sugar content. I measure my food so that I keep healthy portion sizes. (Portion size was a huge surprise to me. I had an unrealistic concept of what an individual serving was and what was actually food for two or three people.)

I keep track of my food in a food journal through MyFitnessPal.com. It also keeps track of my exercise and activity level. Dr. Warrington told me about this tool to use because I had gone about two months and had only lost one pound. Dr. Warrington and the food journal help me to realize that I was eating too few calories – I wasn’t eating enough food.

Dr. Vivienne Rose and Harriet Mandel present Mrs. Verna Prehn with a congratulatory plaque marking her 100 pound weight loss

Dr. Vivienne Rose and Harriet Mandel present Mrs. Verna Prehn with a congratulatory plaque marking her 100 pound weight loss

 

It has been 14 months since Dr. Warrington, Dr. Rose and Harriet helped me make a lifestyle change that is healthier for me and increases my rate of survivorship. At my last appointment and weigh-in, I had lost 100 pounds. It took 13 months. I am no longer on medication for my heart or blood pressure or thyroid. My blood glucose is no longer in the diabetic or pre-diabetic range. I have walked two 8k walks. I walk to videos or outdoors five times a week. I do strength training exercises with weights and bands. I am starting a faith and fitness class with a trainer and will begin a gym membership soon. I can walk my entire neighborhood in 20 minutes without stopping and while carrying on a conversation at the same time.

I still have a considerable amount of weight to lose to get to a healthy weight that I am comfortable with. I feel so much better already. I take the steps instead of the elevator and it doesn’t hurt my knees! I know so much more about what is a healthy food choice and portion size. The University of Maryland Medical Weight Management program, Dr. Warrington, Dr. Rose and Harriet have helped me claim a new healthier way of living.

Verna Prehn

Elkridge, Md.

Spreading Love and Unity in The Breast Center at UMMC

By Tiesha Dove, CMA

Certified Medical Assistant, The Breast Center

Here at The Breast Center at UMMC, many of our patients come in once a year or so for a screening mammogram and soon receive a letter confirming everything looks normal. But others find themselves dealing with the harsh reality of cancer, and we do our best to care for them throughout their treatment. We always want to help in any way we can, even if it’s just with a smile. Our staff members are supportive of one another as we support patients, and that’s how the Valentine’s Day sock exchange came to be.

Who knew that a simple pair of socks would bring so much happiness? The sock exchange started out as a random act of kindness. I always wear crazy socks because they’re fun and brighten up my day. When my co-worker, Stephanie Jackson, noticed and admired my socks one day, it sparked the idea to spread the joy of crazy socks. On Valentine’s Day.

Just like with a “secret Santa” drawing, everyone in our office drew names and then each bought a pair of crazy socks for the person whose name she drew. We exchanged the socks on Valentine’s Day during our lunch hour, and then we all agreed to wear them the next day, showing them off to our patients and spreading love and unity within our Breast Center community.

And, by the way, we decided that the sock exchange will be an annual event.

Pictured above are, from left to right: Regina Pinkey-Gillespie, Stephanie Jackson, Danita Biles, Tiesha Dove, Kam Finckel, Gayle Sis, Lynne Randolph, Esther Jackson, Barbara Myers and Dornette Brown.